Skip to main content

Girls Build! is a unique experiential program designed to engage girls ages 11-14. Participants will receive hands-on learning and skill-based practice with architecture, as well as learning from women who are leading the way in STEAM Fields.

About Girls Build!

Our History

Girls Build! began January 2016. The program was conceived to provide girls who are interested in architecture with a platform to both explore concepts and practice hard skills related to STEAM, ACE and other similar fields. Over the past five years, the program has grown into a robust, inclusive experience that encourages girls to embrace being leaders and critical thinkers.

Why Girls?

Research suggests humans begin to form our identity and identify gendered abilities as early as 2 years of age, but the career pathway options begin to crystallize around 10 years of age. Girls are often directed towards differing expectations even earlier, particularly regarding school achievements and career pathways, on a binary standard.

The nonprofit organization The Circle states: "Investing in the education of girls brings high returns in terms of breaking cycles of poverty and aiding economic growth—but it also improves children’s and women’s survival rates and health, delays child marriage and early pregnancies, empowers women both in the home and the workplace, and helps tackle climate change." This insight, combined with our goal of empowering young people to achieve their potential through the discovery of design, is why we created Girls Build!

Why Design Matters

The core of all education programs at the Chicago Architecture Center is a reflection of our mission statement: To Help People Discover Why Design Matters. Whether we realize it or not, we interact with design every single day.

Good design is invisible, but poor design is easily recognizable. It is important for girls to not only understand that they are working with or against design every day, but also that there is a design process to be followed.

Girls Build! not only teaches participants that decisions are not made by accident, it teaches them to become the decision makers themselves.

Getting Started

The Application Process

Due to the large demand for spots in the Girls Build! program, the Chicago Architecture Center has enlisted the use of an application and requires a 30-minute information session for participants.

Thanks to the generous support of funders, underserved students can attend the program on a partial or full scholarship. All participants must complete the application to be considered for the information session and program.

What to Expect

Girls Build! is a recurring program with varying offerings. Spring and Fall sessions require a 6-week time commitment with classes meeting on Sundays.



Girls Build! programs will take place in person. All sessions will be held at the Illinois Institute of Technology's S.R. Crown Hall, located at 3360 S. State St., Chicago, IL 60616, unless otherwise noted.


Dates: Monday, April 11—Thursday, April 14, 9am—3pm

Theme: Tree Top Designers

Description: The relationship between climate change and architecture is an urgent conversation happening all over the world. In this week-long camp, designed for girls ages 11-14, campers will learn about responsibly and ethically sourced materials as we plan, design and build a model of a sustainable treehouse. The week will include a field trip to an architecture firm, a climate change exhibit and access to female design professionals. This camp aligns with Chicago Public School Spring Break.

Registration is now closed.


Dates: Monday, July 11—Friday, July 15, 9:30am—3:30pm CST

Theme: Meet Your City

Description: How do we design neighborhoods city residents need, want and deserve? Find out in this camp for girls and female-identifying students, ages 11 -14, in partnership with Jane Addams Hull-House Museum—the home of feminist, suffragist, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate. and neighborhood builder Jane Addams. During the week, students will dive into CAC’s graphic novel, No Small Plans, as we meet trailblazing women from the past and present who helped shape our city. The week will include visits to historic immigrant neighborhoods, interviews with community leaders and more.

Note: This camp is will take place at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum (JAHHM). The museum draws upon the legacy of international peace activist and feminist, Jane Addams, and other social reformers who lived and worked alongside their immigrant neighbors to create social change on the Near West Side of Chicago. The museum is located in two of the original buildings: the Hull Home (a National Historic Landmark) and the Residents Dining Hall. JAHHM connects the histories of the Hull-House Settlement to present-day social justice issues. Exhibitions and public programs highlight histories of activism, progressive education and democratic principles of participation and exchange. Visit to reserve a visit or book an educator-led tour.

Registration is now closed.


Dates: Monday, July 25—Friday, July 29, 9:30am—12:30pm CST

Theme: Make No Small Plans

Description:  What is the relationship between rural, suburban and urban landscapes and how do we design spaces residents need, want, and deserve? Find out in this week-long camp designed for girls ages 11 -14. We will dive into the CAC’s graphic novel, No Small Plans, as we meet teens from the past, present and future who helped shape their city. The week will end with a recorded, guided tour from each participant about their block or neighborhood. This camp is open to students anywhere in the world. This is a free program; students must supply their own materials.

Registration is now closed.


Dates: Monday, August 8—Friday, August 12, 9am—3:30pm

Theme: Civic Superheroes

Description:  Women have been shaping the built environment in Chicago for centuries. Join us as we explore five unique women who stem from five unique Chicago neighborhoods and learn how they changed the conversation to one of inclusion and civic rights. Students will visit each historic neighborhood and interview current civic leaders. This camp will conclude with a public showcase of work.

Registration is now closed.

Partner Organizations

  • 3form
  • AIA Chicago
  • Bailey Edward
  • Chicago Mobile Makers
  • Chicago Public Library
  • Chicago Women in Architecture
  • Columbia College Chicago
  • Gensler
  • Girls Garage
  • Girls Inc of Chicago
  • IIDA Illinois Chapter
  • IIT
  • Jane Addams Hull House
  • JGMA
  • MillerKnoll
  • Open Architecture Chicago
  • PORT Chicago
  • Project Exploration
  • Rebuilding Exchange
  • RossBarney Architects
  • Skidmore, Owings + Merrill
  • Stantec
  • Step-Up


    • "Thank you so much for allowing my girls to participate in this fantastic class, what an experience it was for them but also for me. You see, both my girls are diverse learners and I often struggle to find classes that will take them for that reason, plus where they feel like they are successful." – M. Gurrerro, parent
    • "Gaby is always sharing about Girls Build! at school. In fact, they are doing a group project where they redesign a local park ‘to scale.’ She busted out her Girls Build! skills and went around the class helping each student. If you couldn’t tell we love, love, LOVE Girls Build!. It’s one of the best things the girls have done since moving from California and THANK YOU so much for giving Gaby this opportunity." – Simon, parent
    • "Originally, I wanted to be a veterinarian, but after participating in Girls Build and meeting a female architect from Mexico, I think I want to be an architect instead!" – Citiali, age 14
    • "I have always wanted to be a model, and I STILL want to do that, but after Girls Build! I think I want to own my own agency, so I have control over where my image is used and what products I endorse." – Anayah, age 12

Additional Resources

This program is sponsored by MillerKnoll and Denise Littlefield Sobel

Miller Knoll

Denise Littlefield Sobel